About the lake

The Skadar Lake extends somewhere from 370 to 550km2, depending on the season. It’s two thirds belong to Montenegro and one third to Albania. The lake is a habitat of various flora and fauna protected by the National Park of the Skadar Lake. Particularly fascinating are the almost untouched shores of the lake above which the picturesque mountainous landscapes rise. Traditional fishing boats can be seen every day on the endless water surface. Numerous, sparsely populated villages are scattered all along the coastal part of the hilly areas. For centuries, the area of Skadar village has been an area populated by different peoples and cultures.

Creation of the lake

A legend says that the lake was created for one night, when the young bride, happy because her husband returned from the war, forgot to turn the faucet off. But the real story about the creation of the lake is even more interesting. Until 1858, the lake was just a bigger bar called the Great mud. That year, after a heavy storm, the river Dim from the Albanian mountains poured so much sand and sludge on the river mouth that the river bed of that river shifted. Thats s how a small bar became today is biggest lake in the Balkans. Skadar Lake collects waters from the mountains intended for the Adriatic Sea. They are brought by the river Zeta, Cijevna and Moraca and led by the river Bojana. Waters are a huge wealth of Montenegro: clear, fresh, mostly wild and mighty, stronger than rocks. They carve deep canyons, roll snow and trees, hide big fish, cool, inspire…

Nature, flora and fauna

Protecting the biodiversity of Skadar Lake is one of the priorities of Montenegro, which proudly holds the title of ecological state. The exceptional fertility of this area makes Skadar Lake unique in terms of biodiversity, which can best be explored by boat. 

During the past centuries, the population has been rich in fish, with more than 50 species, 18 of which cannot be found anywhere else on the planet.

The surroundings of the Skadar Lake are home to many other animal species, such as lizards, snakes, beavers, otters, wild boars and even wolves. When it comes to the flora of the lake, what makes it special is over 25 endangered plant species. The entire surface of the lake is covered with water lilies and bamboo making it unrealistically beautiful.

Skadar Lake, the emerald of the Balkans, is shared by Montenegro and Albania – 60% of it lies in Montenegro and 40% in Albania. What is more diverse – its fauna and its flora, or the manifold of traces of the ancient times? Should a visitor come and enjoy bird watching, or witness the millennial history of persistence? These are just some of the questions that every visitor wonders about because of the overall diversity that can be seen at this place.

The shores of this beautiful lake are indented with numerous coves, marshes, capes, islands, peninsulas. Clear water and the preserved environment enabled the development of an extremely rich and diverse eco-system. Skadar Lake is a bird paradise providing home for as many as 264 bird species, many of which are rare and endangered. It is also the home to 48 fish species, and even some endemic ones, as is for instance the bleak. Fishing was of immense importance to the coastal population, as well as cultivation on fertile soil that remains even when the water level falls. The trademark of the lake is a bird pelican which is rare in Europe, and this lake is their only habitat in southern Europe. 

Being an important habitat for waterfowl, Skadar Lake was included in the Ramsar list of wetlands of international importance by Ramsar Convention in 1996. The lake was declared a national park in 1983 and in 2011 was officially nominated for UNESCO status.

One of the first things you notice when you look at the lake are the water lilies, that are just one of the many magical sights of this place. They cover a great area of the coastal water, so an onlooker might think it;s a spacious mountain meadow. Another thing that makes the lake so majestic is the manifold of freshwater springs gushing from the bottom of the lake, so it represents an inexhaustible source of drinking water.

In this region, wine has been produced for over 500 years. At the coast, where Boat Old Bridge is located, every household produces its own wine. Here, one can witness the inseparable connection to nature on every step of the way; one can see how wine is grown, how it exists in every garden, stretches as far as the eye can reach. Here, the inhabitants treat wine the same way they d treat a loved one. The wine is made of the small black grapes, and there is no place where it can have such a color and flavor as it has near Skadar Lake. The wine from this region was named the best in the world at international exhibitions.

The surface of Skadar Lake can vary from 370km2 to 530km2, depending on the water level. Its size varies during the seasons; it receives water from many rivers and drains through the Moraca river into the Adriatic sea, from which it is separated with the tall mountain chain. Skadar Lake is the largest lake in the Balkans. It stands out from the rest of the national parks as an area with extraordinary limnological characteristics, highly rich ornithofauna and ichthyofauna and dense vegetation of wetland type.

The lake itself is a cryptodepression, which means that some parts of its bottom are below the sea level.

Such places are called sub-lacustrine sources or eyes. There are around 30. The deepest eye is Radius, 60 meters deep, and according to some data even deeper, while the average dept of the lake is about 6 meters.

Culture and history

The many cultural and historical monuments that originate from the ancient times to the present, the archeological sites, monastery complexes (which had a significant social and political role in Montenegro) and the fortresses, scattered across the Basin of Skadar Lake, tell us that even back in the XV and XIV century, this area was an important cultural centre. There is so much unknown in the Basin of Skadar Lake, that even the local population is not completely familiar with the charms of this area.

An exceptional group of cultural heritage is the traditional national construction, old deserted and derelict fishing villages where the time has stopped, situated on the very coast of Lake, Radus, Krnjice, Poseljani, Karuc where people used to reside and they lived from fishing; stone wine cellars; all this shows how local population used to live. This centuries-old villages represent an unforgettable experience for visitors who want to perceive the spirit of the village environment and to enjoy the hospitality of the local population along with the traditional food and wine this region is widely known for. Customs, tradition, traditional crafts and folklore are just some of the thigns you’d see if you visited this place.

The coastal part, peninsulas and numerous uninhabited islets hide remnants of the past, which is quite common in Montenegro. You can see history everywhere. Some of the most interesting places are: Zabljak, monumental fortress and capital of Zeta during the reign of Crnojevici; Lesendro, built in 1478, an impressive fortress built on a bare rock rising from the lake; Grmozur prison fortress built by the Turks after 1843 on a rock islet. Today, the walls of the prison are decorated with pelicans, herons, cormorants, gulls.